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Football, a guide to the rules of the game, its jargon and terminology

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A Guide to Football Jargon


This page
has been online for sometime now and rules and regulations are
continually changing.  This information should be taken as a guide
only, verification of current rules can be found on the official
websites e.g.


A number of team ball games played in various parts
of the world are called “football”.  These include association football,
rugby football, American football, Gaelic football and Australian rules football.  
One of the most widely played of the games is association football, popularly
known as “soccer”. 

Soccer was born in Britain but it is popular in many parts of the
world, particularly the rest of Europe and South America.

Soccer is played by two teams of 11 players, on a rectangular pitch
100 yards long and approximately 50 to 100 yards wide. It is played with a round leather
ball, the circumference of which must not be more than 70 cms (28ins) or less than 68 cms
(27 ins) and the weight not more than 450 gms (16 oz) or less than 410 gms (14 oz) at the
start of the match. The pressure of the ball must be equal to 0.6 – 1.1 atmospheres
(600-1100 g/cm²) at sea level i.e. 8.5 lb/sq. in – 15.6lb/sq.in.

A game lasts 90 minutes, with an interval in the middle.

Booked – when a player is deemed to have
contravened the rules so his name and number are noted by the referee.

Caution – a warning by the referee for an offence
committed during the match.  This is not as serious as a “booking”.

Centre Spot
– A spot marked in the centre of the
halfway line from where the kick-off takes place.

Corner flags
what, these are the flags placed in the four corners
of the pitch from where
corner kicks are taken.

Corner kickThis is the
technical bit
.  A corner kick is awarded to the attacking team when the
ball passes over the defender’s goal line, having last been played by a defender.

Cross – When a player kicks the ball from a
position near the touchline into midfield, usually the penalty or goal area.

Direct free kick.  A kick given by the referee
from which a goal can be scored directly by the player taking the kick.

Extra time – When a definite result is required
(usually in a knock-out competition) and the score is level at the end of normal time i.e.
90 minutes, an extra 30 minutes is played i.e. 15 minutes each way
is played.

In some instances the ‘Golden Goal’ rule applies
whereby the first goal scored during extra time wins the match.

– an infringement of the rules.

Goal – this is how the game is scored.  A goal
is scored when the whole ball crosses the line under the bar and between the
goalposts, under conditions covered by the game.

Goal area,  The small rectangular area
extending 6 yds./5.49 m each side of the goalposts and into the field of play.

– this is awarded when the ball has
passed over the goal line either side of the goal mouth, having last been played by an
attacking player.

Hand-ball.  When a player (other than the goal
keeper) deliberately touches the ball with his hand on the field of
play.  This is an offence and will be penalised.

This entry has been
amended as Maryn Kerr has kindly written to say “You state a handball
is ruled whether an accident or not. This is incorrect. Rule 12 of the FIFA
Laws of the Game state it is only an offence if the “player handles the
ball deliberately”.

Further clarification can be found at


Indirect free kick.  A kick awarded by the
referee from which a goal cannot be scored unless the ball has been touched by two or more

Injury time.  An amount of time added on to
the normal 90 minutes to compensate for time taken in dealing with such things as injuries
during the game.

Kick-off.  This takes place at the start of
the game both at the beginning and after half-time, and also after a goal has been scored.
  The ball is placed on the “Centre spot” and the ball must be played
forward by the side kicking off.

Linesmen. The officials both sides of the pitch who
help the referee in controlling the game.

Marking.  When players keep another player in
close proximity to discourage passes to him and to restrict his movements if he does
receive the ball.

(the dreaded
offside rule – another technical bit
) An attacking player is
“offside” when he is in the defending team’s half of the pitch, nearer to
the opponents’ goal line than a defender at the moment that an attacking ball is
played through to him by a team mate.

It has been pointed out by Sandy
Powell that this is not strictly true – he states “a player is
offside when he is in front of the ball when it was last played” –
the then goes on to list instances when the player would not be considered
“off side”.  This caused me to do more research on the
subject and I came across the following sites which seem to say, it is not
quite as simple as first thought –  make up your own mind !!!!!!!!


OK I have been brought
to task yet again, Suzie Joyce has contacted me saying –

Your “offside rule” in the football
section makes very complex something which is very simple (and neither of
the two explanations up there are right!)

It is a common misconception that it’s complicated
when really it isn’t.

The attacking player must have two opposing players
(which can include the goalkeeper) between him and the goal when the ball
is played to him. Otherwise he is offside.

Technically you must be interfering with play to be
ruled offside but this isn’t always followed.

As a Brazilian, I can´t help but be
a soccer addicted. You didn´t mention an important detail of the soccer
offside rule:

Whenever the ball – at the very
moment it´s played to an attacking player by his team mate – is nearer
the goal line then the attacking player there will be no offside. Even if
there are no opposing players between the attacking player and the goal

José Luiz Chisnandes

How on earth am I meant
to keep up?????

Penalty This is a kick awarded by a referee
when a defender fouls an opposing player or deliberately handles the ball in the penalty
area.  The ball is placed on a spot marked on the pitch in front of the goal mouth
and the kick is taken with only the goal keeper to beat.

Red card.  A card shown to a player by the
referee after a serious offence, such as a deliberate foul.  If a player commits a
less serious foul but has already been shown a “yellow” card, he then receives a
Red card.  The player has to leave the field upon receipt of a red card.

Referee – the official in charge of the match.
  He decided on rule infringements and awards the appropriate penalties (or not as the case maybe).

Reverse pass is when a player runs one way and
passes the ball in the opposite direction.

Score draw
is when both teams have scored the same
number of goals.

Set Piece.  This is a series of well practised
moves carried out by a team when taking corners, free kicks, throw-ins etc.

Selling a dummy.  This phrase is used when a
player pretends to do one thing but then does something different, thereby confusing the
opposing player (and sometimes his own!)

Striker.  An attacking player positioned well
forward in order to score goals.

Strip is a term used for the players clothes.
  This usually consists of team colours and the name of the club sponsors.  
Teams normally have several “strips” in case an opposing team have similar
colours which may cause confusion on the field.

Sweeper.  A player who stays behind the
defensive line in order to “sweep” up any loose balls.

Through-ball. A pass to a colleague running forward
by-passing the opposing defence.

Throw-in.  When the ball goes over the side
lines and, therefore, out of play, a member from the team which was not the last to touch
it, throws it back onto the field.

Touchline – the line which marks either side of the
playing area of pitch.

Volley.  When a ball is kicked before

Yellow card.  A card shown to a player by the
referee as a penalty for infringement of the rules as a caution.  More serious than a
caution, less serious than a “red card”.